How to Create a Wireframe – A Beginner’s Guide

Wireframes help you to outline the information hierarchy of your design and make it easier to arrange your website or app design according to how you want to direct your visitors on your website or app. As a result, there is far less uncertainty during the prototyping phase, allowing designers to concentrate on polishing the details in the most realistic manner possible. In this article, we will go through the following topics:

  1. What is a wireframe?
  2. Why you should make a wireframe
  3. Wireframing a website and an app
  4. Best practices when wireframing a website or app
  5. 3 steps to make your first wireframe

What is a Wireframe?

A wireframe is a simple map or diagram of a website, mobile app, or desktop program; it’s the bare bones, with no embellishments. A wireframe is similar to a basic floor plan of a building in terms of architecture. A wireframe, like an architectural floor plan, illustrates where each space is located, as well as how each space connects to the others; but, it avoids superficial, non-structural detail. So we’re mostly talking about page structure, information architecture, user flow, and general form here.

Everything included in a wireframe must have a functional purpose.  This includes buttons, menus, headings, search fields, and any other product navigation tools or interactive elements. It would not, however, contain styling, colors, or images. Of course, they are all vital elements, but they don’t add to the user experience in a structural way.

Wireframes are typically designed fairly simply because wireframing is focused on function rather than form. Only black, white, and possibly gray are frequently used. Indeed, many of the best examples of wireframing start out as a simple hand-drawn drawing on paper. They may be transferred to the digital realm for easier modification and sharing in the future.

Why You Should Wireframe

The goal of wireframing is to detect any potential issues with your UX’s structure first. Second, to find solutions for these issues.

Although it may be tempting to forgo wireframing, you will save a lot of time and energy in the long run by dealing with any issues at this stage.  Think of it this way: If you are building a house you would make sure your house’s rafters and joists are completely solid before installing sheetrock and painting the walls.

But there’s another reason why wireframing a website or app at the beginning of the design process is so significant. Consider showing your newly built and freshly decorated home to friends; they are well aware of the amount of effort that has gone into the construction, so they are unlikely to be brutally honest about anything they dislike about the design.

Instead, if you wanted honest advice, you would have shown your plan to your friends from the beginning. They would have been much less hesitant to provide a critical opinion if they had known you had only recently started working on the project. After all, it’s best to inform you while you still have the opportunity to deal with the issue.

It’s the same with wireframing a website or app: show people a plain and basic map of the project, and few will hesitate to tell you what they think. However, if you go to the trouble of creating a fully finished mockup or prototype before asking for help, your work will be evident. As a result, any criticism will be more likely to be watered down.

In short, there’s no better way to get honest and trustworthy user feedback than wireframing. Furthermore, wireframes are simple and inexpensive to build. 

Wireframing a Website and an App

Although the key principles of wireframing remain the same, there are a few distinctions between wireframing a website and wireframing an app. Let’s take a look at these two key issues.

Screen Space

Because mobile apps have limited on-screen real estate, your wireframe must account for this. For the start, this means ensuring your artboard is set up with the proper aspect ratio. Alternatively, if you’re doing your initial wireframe by hand, choose a size and orientation of paper that roughly corresponds to only a few screen columns (at most).

The size of your tap targets is also important; make sure your buttons are large enough to accommodate even the most generously endowed digits while providing plenty of room around the buttons. This eliminates the possibility of people selecting the incorrect option by accident. Make sure your wireframe design adheres to industry standards as well.

Creating a wireframe for a mobile app isn’t only about size; it’s also about the simplicity of the design. The more streamlined and logical the structure is, the easier it is for people to use your app.

When it comes to designing websites and desktop apps, though, you have a little more freedom in the design process. At the very least, you’ll be able to spread your design across multiple columns. Furthermore, since desktop users can’t tap or swipe but instead use a trackpad or mouse to engage with your app or site, strict minimum button size limits aren’t as necessary.

It’s difficult to fault a basic and succinct site layout, so keep your wireframe clean and to the point even when designing for a desktop.

Interactive Behavior

When it comes to app behavior, minimalism is usually the best strategy, even when wireframing for mobile apps. Fussy interactions aren’t feasible in this situation. You’ll have to limit them to a single tap or swipe instead. However, this does not imply a reduction in usability. Instead, clever use of tiny interactions like card lists, modal windows, and bottom sheets may help you make the most of the minimal screen space available.

Meanwhile, when it comes to creating desktop applications, you have a lot more options. With greater room to work with, you may design the product so that customers can access additional information through a number of more complex interactions while still maintaining a clean and spacious design. Hovering over an item may display tooltips, while clicking it may expose a tab menu, image gallery, or carousel.

Best Practices When Wireframing a Website or an App

The following list is a compilation of best practices to keep in mind when wireframing apps and websites.

  1. Know Your Audience

Before you do anything, make sure you know who your app’s intended audience is. Almost every decision you make while you develop your wireframe will be based on this. Do your research.

2. Think About User Expectations

Once you’re certain you know your users, think about what they want to do when they open your app or visit your website. To put it another way, what problems does your user have, and how will you help them solve the problems?

3.Choose Your Tools

The greatest wireframing tool is the one you feel most at ease with. If you want to use pen and paper, then start out with that — at least in the beginning. Alternatively, if you want to work with a tool from the start, go ahead and do it this way. There is no right or wrong way.

4. Iterate

Wireframes should be iterative. Start with simple pen and paper sketches, gather feedback, and then work your way up to a digital wireframe when you’re ready to share your progress with a larger audience.

5. Keep It Simple and Logical

As you layout your wireframe, keep the info hierarchy in mind. When possible, stick to the rules; don’t throw people off by putting regular things in unusual places.

6. Form Follows Function

It’s important to remember that wireframes are about layout and usability, not aesthetics. A good wireframe is one that is usable. But not necessarily beautiful. It also doesn’t have to be perfect in terms of appearance.

3 Steps to Create Your First Wireframe

1. Layout and structure

Start by using blocks and grids to determine the structure of your contents. Concentrate on how the material is presented rather than the content itself. The mobile-first strategy works in terms of layout because it allows you to focus only on the most important features and scale up as needed.

2. Information hierarchy

Next, think about the order of information that you would like to present to your visitors, from top to bottom, left to right. Place individual links, buttons, and symbols, as well as user flows, where you want them. Keep your wireframe as simple as possible, yet with enough visual hierarchy to elicit useful input.

3. Flows and details

It may be useful to add extra information to your wireframe for context once you’ve integrated input from UX researchers, product writers, and other designers. Keep it low-fidelity and concentrate on broad issues like layout and navigation. Use color and type intentionally, like determining font size or emphasizing a strong call to action. Then, share your wireframe with other designers and stakeholders and get final feedback.